Flaws emerge in RNA method to build tree of life
Study finds problems with alluringly simple way to tease out evolutionary relationships through microRNA.
Tiny molecules that seemed to provide a powerful way to construct the tree of life may not have such a strong capability after all. A team of scientists has exposed1 flaws in a previously celebrated method that uses molecules called microRNAs to deduce evolutionary relationships between animals.
Thomson and his co-authors also applied an alternative method of analysing trees, which accommodated nuances in microRNA evolution, instead of using a method that assumes microRNA conservation through the generations. Three of the five resulting trees, including the reptile tree, more closely matched those produced by other methods.
Peterson could not be reached by Nature for comment, but Erik Sperling, a palaeobiologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who was Peterson's co-author on some of the microRNA analyses2, 5, agrees with Thomson's conclusion that microRNAs cannot alone unveil species relationships. "MicroRNAs are not the panacea we perhaps originally hoped,” he says. …
- Amy Maxmen, July 28, 2014